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Learning Linux for Windows Users - Part 1

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3 Aug 2012CPOL 64.5K   5   4
A series of articles to guide you through the basics of installing and using Linux if you have only ever used Windows.

Learning Linux, if all you know is Windows

Table of Contents


Installation Methods

Installing Oracle VM VirtualBox

Choosing a Linux Distribution

Installing Ubuntu on Oracle VM VirtualBox


It’s now the year 2012 and you are still using Windows. You are a Windows pro. Your index finger is 5 times the strength of all your other fingers from clicking 8 million times per day. however you have heard how great Linux is over the years, how it will save you time, save you money and make your hair grow back. You first heard that in what? 1997? Well the time has finally come for you to break free of the chains and shackles of the licensed world and enter the black screen and green text command line Open Source world. Excited yet? Well don’t go too crazy. Don’t go and burn your Windows License and throw your Windows DVD off your balcony just yet. It is true that Linux has evolved somewhat over the years but in my opinion it is still far from an everyday replacement to the Windows Desktop.  For the most part it’s going to be fairly trivial for me to teach you how to open, edit, create and print documents, check your Email, see what your friends are up to on Facebook, update your bowel movements on Twitter and of course get caught up on the latest epic fails or child prodigy music sensation on YouTube. 

No my friend… this is not a commercial for the latest Ipad. However, all of these things are fairly easy to do on a Linux Desktop. Then why did I say it’s not a great replacement for windows yet? Well, there are still some things that you need to learn versus just do.  That is the big problem with almost everything Linux related. You need to think and learn versus just sit and click. For the most part, Windows is very intuitive. You can sit down and do most things.  However with Linux it’s nearly impossible to use a Linux machine on a day to day basis without having to learn some command lines or having someone walk you through how to do this or that. For the most part anyone can run Windows happily without ever having to drop into the command prompt. I mean, when is the last time you even had to go into the windows command prompt? This is unfortunately not true of Linux, but it is still improving. You will need to spend some time interacting with only text in front of you. No buttons to click on. No Magic Clippy to happily guide you along. No Dr. Watson to give you a back rub when things go wrong.

Fear not my brave little mouse clicker, if you give yourself some time and have some patience you can learn what you need to know. In the end you may just find that you can do more in Linux than you ever could in Windows. <o:p>

Where do I begin?

Well there are a number of ways for you to try out Linux. I will make the assumption that you don’t have an extra machine lying around. This will leave you three options. Dual Booting, Live CD’s or Virtualization. I am not particularly a big fan of Dual Booting or using the Live CD’s. I much prefer using a virtualized setup.  The biggest reasons are that’s its always available to you to just turn on like any other windows application, windows is still running if you need to use it and it doesn’t make any permanent changes to your computer.

Dual Booting: In this method you will need to shrink your windows partition or add a second hard drive and install linux to it. You will then use a boot loader to select what operating system you want to run when you turn your computer on.  Yep it’s a bit of a pain to get working and has caused a lot of headaches over the years for both beginners and seasoned IT Veterans.

Live CD’s:  Linux can actually run directly from a CD. You boot your computer from your CD with Linux installed on it and bingo you are in to Linux. The problem with this is that if you start using it on a regular basis you can’t save settings or documents easily so this can become a real pain. In my eyes it’s essentially good for a one time turn it on and see what it looks like thing.

Virtualization: This is my preferred method. What you do here is install a program that will let you run more than one Operating System(Windows and Linux) at the same time. The Host(Windows) runs as normal. Then you click on the Virtualization software and you run Linux. It runs within a window like any other program like Internet Explorer. However inside of that is a fully functional Operating system.

Installing Virtual Box

Ok, so there are a number of pieces of Virtualization software out there. My personal favorite is one from Oracle called VM Virtual Box. It is freely available for you to use under the License details. It is easy to install and doesn’t eat up a whole bunch of space or resources.

There is a prerequisite. Your computer… more specifically your Motherboard and CPU must be capable of running virtualization

If you have an AMD you can use this to identify if you can.
If you have an Intel you can use this.<o:p>

The actual process to get into your bios and make the changes to enable virtualization is going to be different for each machine. But you must reboot your computer, go into your BIOS, find the advanced CPU menu, and enable Hardware Virtualization.

I’ll wait while you do this now…
Insert elevator music....
Wow that was fast you are so awesome.

Now that you have virtualization enabled you can proceed to download and install Oracle VM VirtualBox.
Here is the link you need
The current version of VirtualBox as of writing this article is VirtualBox 4.1.18.

You will want to download the Windows hosts version for x86/amd64. You don’t need to worry about the Extension pack or the Developer kit.  Both of those are beyond the scope of this series of articles.

Once you download it and run it you can essentially keep clicking next until it’s done. I believe it was Next, Next, Next, Yes, Next. You will be prompted to install a driver from oracle. You must install this, just click install.

Now that you are done installing virtual box and you are ready to install Linux. The question is what version of Linux.

What Linux Distro is best?

There are a few major versions of Linux. These were designed by different people or companies and each one is slightly different from the other.  These “versions” are referred to as Distribution’s or Distro’s for short. If you say version to a Linux person they will know you are a noob. So say Distro. You would use it like this… “Hey Sean what’s your favorite Distro”…. “Vince, I love gentoo but it’s a bit complicated, for most part I just use Fedora?" Some of the major ones people use would be RedHat, Fedora(free version of Redhat),  Ubuntu,  SuSe(pronounced Sue Say not Sue’s, mind you, I call it Sue’s just because I like to be weird and Su Say sounds funny to me) and Gentoo. There are a number of other ones like Zorin, Slackware, Peppermint, CentOS, LinuxMint and Pinguy just to name a few. 

Wow so many to choose from and they all sound so cool. How do I know what one to use? Well the reality is that most people are using either Fedora or Ubuntu. If not they started out using Fedora or Ubuntu.  There are some major differences between Fedora and Ubuntu. Most notably Ubuntu is debian based. Huh what’s Debian? Don’t worry about that for now, just keep the Debian word in the back of your mind. I prefer Ubuntu. Why? Umm I dunno. I think I just like to say Ubuntu over Fedora. I am not a big fan of fancy hats anyhow. I am more of a baseball hat. Actually I prefer to use the Ubuntu server version for server stuff over the RedHat Server so it only makes sense that I use Ubuntu on my desktop.

Here is a good page if you want some more detailed background on Ubuntu.

Installing Ubuntu on Virtual Box The first thing you need to do is download Ubuntu, you can do this here
Download the 32 bit version as it will offer the most compatibility and unless you need the 64bit one for something specific it will do you just fine while you are learning.
Here is the direct link as of writing this article. Direct Download<o:p>

You will notice there is a Windows Installer version… This is if you want to Dual Boot. Avoid this unless you know you want to do this.

Make sure you remember where you downloaded the Ubuntu ISO to, most likely in your downloads folder or on your desktop.

Once the ISO is downloaded you can launch Oracle VM Virtual Box.

Image 1
Click New, Then Next
Type in  a Descriptive Name.. Maybe…. My First Ubuntu

Image 2
Click Next

Now you will need to select how much memory Ubuntu will have access to. Linux doesn’t need a lot. Set it to 1 GB or 1024 MB’s and you will be fine. (You can tweak this later if you want)
Image 3
Click Next

Now you want to create a new hard disk, and click next, select a VDI and Click Next
Now Click Fixed Size and click Next
Now for the size you want to make it big enough to have enough room so you don’t run out, but not so big that it takes up every bit of space from windows.  30 GB is plenty of space to start out with, but if you have lots of space you can give it more.

Image 4

Click Next, Then click Create

This process will take 5 or 10 minutes depending on how fast your computer is. Now is a good time to update your Facebook and twitter status to say “Vince from Rocks, I am learning Linux and my favorite Distro is Ubuntu…It’s debian based. ”  Everyone will think you are so smart. Your grass will be greener, you will win the lottery, that guy or girl you had a crush on in highschool will send you an email, world peace will be just around the corner and the next time you step on gum it won't stick to your foot.

Once the process is complete you can click create again and you will have something that looks like this.

Image 5

Now you can click on your new virtual Machine and click start.The first run wizard will pop up. Click Next. Now here is where you select that Ubuntu ISO file. Click the little Folder icon and Select your ISO file. Then click next, Then click Start and you should get something like this….
Image 6<o:p>

That will eventually turn to this…
Image 7

The "Try Ubuntu" option is the Live CD method that I mentioned above. Now you want to select your language(English for me) and the Click the Install Ubuntu button.

Select the two check boxes for Download Updates while installing and Install thie Third-party software. And click continue. They are both nice features to have and are free…

Image 8
Then click continue<o:p>

Select Erase disk and install Ubuntu Then click continue<o:p>

Then Click Install Now
During the installation you will be prompted for your location for time zone purposes and keyboard layout. Just answer them as you see fit.

Image 9
You will eventually get to a Who are you? Screen. Enter your name (firstname is fine), Your computer name… whatever you want… username, and password. Don’t encrypt your home folder and don’t Log in automatically…

<o:p>Image 10

Click Continue<o:p>

This will take about 10-20 minutes, depending on how fast your computer is.'s a good time to grab that coffee you wanted, update your Google Plus, Check your email for that long lost love of your life, and of course take whatever bio break you need….<o:p>

In the mean time while you are waiting you may also have noticed a little thing that got installed called APT. APT is a magical little piece of software that came along a fair number of years ago.
APT stands for Advanced Package Tool and with it you can install thousands of programs free of charge. With a single command…

sudo apt-get install programname 

The programs available through apt are freely usable under the various GPL licenses.  Now you have heard me say free a number times. This is a good time to explain the word free. There is this thing called GNU GPL.  In its most basic form GNU GPL allows you to use, share and make changes to any of the programs that fall under GNU GPL.  The stipulation is that you must also in turn share the source code, and allow others access to your changes and software under GNU GPL.
So basically yah, its free  don’t charge for it.

In the above command for apt you will notice the word sudo in front. Ubuntu protects the the system by default and doesn’t let a normal user make system changes.  This is a good thing and was copied my microsoft with that whole UAC thing. However unlike in Microsoft it actually works all of the time.  For exampe with UC enabled you used to be able to install Chrome without UAC blocking it. Viruses and malware can get installed without UAC preventing it so UAC IMO is just an annoiyance that doesn’t work.  Now onto SUDO. SUDO will give your command the permision to run. You will need to type in your password to verify. It is possible to disable this SUDO situation and enable to root account but this is not recommended for beginers. Just get used to the added layer of security and accept it as a good thing.

Back to the installation of Ubuntu…

Ok, so you will eventually have a Installation Complete dialogue with a restart now button, click restart now. You may get stuck at a screen prompting you to remove media, just hit enter. Ubuntu should restart. You will eventually get right into Ubuntu once it boots back up and it should look like this…


Image 11

YEAH!!!! You have now successfully installed ubuntu in a virtualized state. <o:p>

In the next article I will go through how to run your basic applications so you can get on the Interent, customize your desktop and run updates.

Some quick pointers. Before I leave you alone….

The little gear in the top right corner gives you access to system settings, and allows you to log out and turn your ubuntu machine off.

On the left side is like your taskbar similar to in windows 7 at the bottom of your windows machine. You can pin applications to it. By default you have access to firefox, updates, and document editing applications… WOW Document editing for free thats better than Word Pad? Yup seriously. Spreadsheeets and everything is already there for you to use for FREE under GNU GPL(GPL for short)…

So go ahead an play around or shut it down and wait for the next article.
Here is the next article... 


This article, along with any associated source code and files, is licensed under The Code Project Open License (CPOL)

Comments and Discussions

GeneralMy vote of 5 Pin
Michael_Haephrati12-Sep-13 8:28
Michael_Haephrati12-Sep-13 8:28 
Thanks. Your article is very detailed.
GeneralThanks. And my report of a Problem with a Solution. Pin
SoMad31-May-13 19:18
professionalSoMad31-May-13 19:18 
GeneralVirtual box drivers Pin
ledtech312-May-13 23:44
ledtech312-May-13 23:44 
GeneralGlad to see this Pin
ledtech32-Aug-12 14:14
ledtech32-Aug-12 14:14 

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